Hawai’i men’s basketball falls to Cal State Fullerton in overtime heartbreaker to open Big West play

Hawai’i men’s basketball falls to Cal State Fullerton in overtime heartbreaker to open Big West play

Hawaii men’s basketball falls to Cal State Fullerton in overtime heartbreaker to open Big West play

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED DEC 30, 2023

HONOLULU — The stumble from the Diamond Head peak to base continues. 

After finishing in fourth place in their title defense of the annual Diamond Head Classic to close out the non-conference schedule, the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors men’s basketball team saw its losing streak extend to three games after opening Big West conference play with a 63-61 overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center Saturday night. 

Hawai’i would get the New Years’ Eve-eve party started with the game’s first points as Ryan Rapp banked home a step-through layup in his first career start for the Rainbow Warriors. The junior guard out of Melbourne, Australia entered the lineup for graduate transfer Matt Cotton — who played just five minutes and 42 seconds before putting his warmup back on for the rest of the night. Cotton did not play in the second half or overtime for undisclosed reasons. 

Fullerton guard DJ Brewton answered the Hawai’i bucket with long pull-up jumper to knot it at two before sinking a pair of free throws to give CSUF the team’s first lead of the game at 4-2. Rainbow Warriors’ guard Noel Coleman got his first points of the night after hammering home a two-handed jam off of a baseline dunk to tie it at four and gave the ‘Bows the lead once again after drilling a right-corner three-pointer to make it 9-6. The back-and-forth beginning reached the under-16 media timeout tied at nine after Grayson Carper responded to Coleman’s three with a triple of his own. 

The teams held each other without another point until Hawai’i’s Mor Seck was whistled for a goaltend with 11:28 left in the opening half, giving Fullerton an 11-9 advantage. Justin McKoy tied the game at 11 on the next possession and a 1-of-2 trip to the free throw line for Seck pushed UH back in front, 12-11. 

Back-to-back buckets for CSUF pushed the Titans ahead by three before Carper drilled his second three of the half to give the visitors a six-point lead, 18-12. The ‘Bows would cut into the lead with a Coleman reverse layup went through to push the senior over 1,000 points in his University of Hawai’i career (he reached 1K for his entire college career earlier this season against Hawaii Pacific), but that was the tightest the margin would get for the rest of the half as foul shooting woes continued to plague UH. 

Carper made his third three in as many attempts with 44 ticks left on the first-half clock off of a Hawai’i turnover to make it 27-18 before a Seck free throw and UH freshman Tom Beattie came up with a steal and score just before half to help the ‘Bows go into halftime down just six. 

Hawai’i shot just 35% from the field through the first 20 minutes, making one of 10 attempts from long range while turning the ball over seven times to build the first half hole. Coleman led UH with seven points as only him and McKoy managed to make more than one field goal for the home team to start action. 

Coming out of the break, the ‘Bows flew out with a furry to tie the game at 29 as McKoy drilled two three-pointers to quickly close the gap and Rapp got his second layup of the night to drop to excite the home crowd with a fresh setting across the rest of the half. The two rival programs traded blows, drawn charges and the lead as the second half rolled on, seeing Hawai’i jump back ahead in loud fashion as Juan Munoz got in on the fun with his first three-ball of the night — much to the delight of the home fans — to give the ‘Bows the 41-39 advantage with 10:37 remaining. 

Fullerton would not trail long, tying the game on the next possession and re-taking a two-point lead with a Donovan Oday steal and slam as the game ticked under 10 minutes to play. Hawai’i cut it to 43-42 after Seck split a pair of foul shots before CSUF’s Tory San Antonio pushed the lead back to three with a nice finish inside. 

UH’s Tom Beattie brought the score even again at 45 with a triple from the top of the key, but Brewton took the lead right back for the Titans and Justin McKoy would be whistled for a questionable offensive foul, his fourth personal of the contest, with 8:08 left to play that sent the UNC transfer to the bench and sent Ganot into a frenzy with the officials ahead of the under-eight media timeout. 

Hawai’i jumped back in front by one following the stoppage of play after forward Bernardo de Silva split a couple free throws and increased its lead to two after McClanahan got fouled late in the shot clock and went 1-for-2 from the line himself with 4:46 remaining, making it 49-47 in favor of the ‘Bows. 

Just as it looked like Ganot’s squad would force another shot clock violation with just over three minutes to play, Fullerton’s San Antonio rattled home a jumper to beat the shot clock horn and tying the game at 49-all and forcing a UH timeout. After the timeout, the ‘Bows would go to de Silva on back-to-back possessions down low and take a two-point lead with under 120 seconds left in regulation. 

It was CSUF’s Brewton showing off the clutch scoring gene with a running floater off glass over McClanahan with 1:38 left to make it 53-53, but again de Silva answered with a hoop on the other end, this time with an offensive rebound and putback going down while being fouled to give UH a three-point advantage. 

Brewton split a pair of free throws to cut it down to a two-point deficit before the Titans tied it at 56 apiece with under a minute to play and produced a stop on the other end to get a chance to win it at the buzzer but the try went awry. 

Hawai’i nearly had holiday heroics from McClanahan again, who tossed a three-quarter-court heave just milliseconds after the buzzer sounded that ended up going in anyway — instead going to overtime for the third time in the last four meetings against Cal State Fullerton. 

The ‘Bows took the extra period’s first lead behind a pair of McKoy free throws before three makes in four tries from the charity stripe for CSUF’s Oday put the Titans ahead with 3:57 left in overtime. The Rainbow Warriors jumped in front again after a nice give-and-go between Beattie and de Silva finished in a layup for the guard from New Zealand and a 60-59 advantage for the home squad. 

UH got the defensive stop on the ensuing possession but McClanahan was unable to get the following three-point try to fall with 1:42 left to play, keeping it a one-point game as the Titans called timeout. 

Much like the final possessions of regulation, CSUF went back to Brewton’s matchup against the smaller McClanahan and allowed the guard to use his size to re-take the lead with 77 seconds to play, 61-60. This time, de Silva missed the answer on the other end, seeing his right-handed hook roll off the rim and Cal State Fullerton’s John Mikey Square muscle home an insurance basket on the other end for the Titans with 26.2 seconds left in overtime to make it 63-60. 

Hawai’i had a chance to tie after McClanahan was fouled on a three-point attempt with 17 seconds to play, but the first two shots went off the mark before sinking the final one to make it a two-point game. CSUF’s Brewton left the door open for UH by missing two consecutive free throws, but a mishandled post feed and rainbow three-point try by Justin McKoy resulted in a miss and the fifth consecutive loss to Cal State Fullerton for the program. 

Brewton led Fullerton with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor as the Titans bounced back from an opening loss to Big West play earlier in the week. CSU Fullerton finished the game forcing 17 turnovers by Hawai’i and held the ‘Bows to a 5-of-23 shooting performance from range in the loss. 

Bernardo de Silva paced the ‘Bows, posting another double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds as the six-foot-nine forward was featured on possessions late for UH. McKoy, who battled foul trouble for a large portion of the evening, followed closely behind with 12 points and eight boards in the loss. 

Hawai’i will look to snap its three-game losing streak when they return to action on the road to begin the new year, taking on CSU Bakersfield on January 4 for the team’s “first” road contest of the season. The ‘Bows participated in the Acrisure Invitational on the mainland for two games at a neutral site before playing Utah at the Delta Center for another “neutral” site contest. 

Hawaii starts conference play, ends 2023 with 10-point win at Cal State Fullerton

Hawaii starts conference play, ends 2023 with 10-point win at Cal State Fullerton

Hawaii starts conference play, ends 2023 with 10-point win at Cal State Fullerton

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED DEC 30, 2023

Daejah who, vu, don’t be blue.

For the third consecutive season, Hawai’i women’s basketball has won their conference-opener. For the ninth straight time, Hawai’i women’s basketball has defeated Cal State Fullerton on the hardwood.

Jokes aside, the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (4-6, 1-0 Big West) closed out the 2023 calendar year in style, picking up a road conference win by taking down Cal State Fullerton (5-7, 1-1 Big West) on the mainland Saturday afternoon, 59-49. The victory also was the first road win of the year for the Rainbow Wahine, who had previously fallen at #2 UCLA, #9 Stanford and a Santa Clara squad that sits at 12-3 heading into 2024 in three previous road contests. 

More impressive, UH did so without the services of one their leading scorers in guard Daejah Phillips, who did not suit up for the conference-opener for the Rainbow Wahine. Phillips could be seen on the end of the bench, engaged in the game and cheering on teammates despite missing her first game of the year. 

It looked like Hawai’i would struggle without the shot-making prowess of the junior early on as CSU Fullerton held the ‘Bows scoreless for the game’s first four minutes before UH’s Kelsie Imai got a layup to go to get the visitors on the board to provide a spark. 

The spark quickly turned into flames as MeiLani McBee and Ashley Thoms drained back-to-back triples to push Hawai’i in front, 8-4, with 4:11 remaining in the opening frame. The Rainbow Wahine flexed the defensive tenacity that has become a calling card in the past two Big West-winning seasons by allowing just one basket in the final six minutes of the first quarter and extending the lead to 13-6 after 10 minutes of action — forcing seven Titans’ turnovers in the process. 

The complimentary basketball on both sides of the court for Hawai’i trickled into the second quarter as Lily Wahinekapu’s steal and score opened action in the period and set the tone for the Rainbow Wahine to grow the advantage to a game-high 14 points ahead of halftime after another steal and score by Wahinekapu with seven seconds left in the first half. 

Hawai’i’s Imai led the charge through 20 minutes for the Rainbow Wahine, filling up the box sheet with eight points, four steals and three assists off the bench to help fill the void felt by the loss of usual “Energizer-Bunny” in Phillips. Thoms came off the pine for UH as well and added a game-best nine points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting from distance in the first half. 

Cal State Fullerton used a pair of Fujika Nimmo makes from range to open the second half quickly, going on a 7-0 run in just two minutes of game action to cut the Hawai’i lead in half and force a timeout. The momentum shift continued through the break in the action with another Nimmo triple to cut it to four before UH’s Brooklyn Rewers got a look inside to go for the ‘Bows first points since the break. 

The Titans brought it within two before Thoms drilled her career-best fourth three-pointer of the contest to give the Rainbow Wahine breathing room with a five-point lead with 5:11 left in the quarter. After Nimmo cut it to a one-possession game again, it would be McBee with the “Midas Touch” from distance putting Hawai’i up by six with 3:28 left in the third quarter, 41-35. The teams traded late-shot clock makes to close out the quarter, but it was the visiting Rainbow Wahine leading by five with 10 minutes left in regulation. 

When it turned to winning time, the battle-tested ‘Bows (both from past seasons and the challenging non-conference schedule) turned up the defensive heat again, holding CSU Fullerton without a point for the first six minutes and 52 seconds of the fourth while extending the lead into double-digits for the first time since the opening moments of the second half. CSU-Fullerton’s Ashlee Lewis ended the scoring drought for the Titans, but it was too little, too late for the hosts, who dropped to 1-1 in conference play. 

Hawai’i, who has seen rebounding struggles throughout the first nine games, won the battle on the glass versus CSU Fullerton, 42-33, while flexing an impressive bench unit that produced 25 of 59 points for UH.

CSU-Fullerton was led by Nimmo’s game-high 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting from long range, though the guard was just 6-for-17 overall from the floor. The Titans committed 15 turnovers on the afternoon, though just five came after halftime. 

Hawai’i’s Ashley Thoms had a season-high 12 points on the career-best four three-pointers off the bench in the win. Junior guard Kelsie Imai finished with nine points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals and was a +13 in her 23 minutes off the bench, helping the Rainbow Wahine finish 2023 on the right foot and head into 2024 flying high (and back to the islands) with a win. 

Rainbow Wahine earn 1st win against San Francisco in Bank of Hawai’i Classic

Rainbow Wahine earn 1st win against San Francisco in Bank of Hawai’i Classic

Rainbow Wahine earn 1st win against San Francisco in Bank of Hawai’i Classic

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED NOV 19, 2023

HONOLULU — No place like home. 

After a trying road trip to open the season for the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine basketball team that saw a tough challenge in nationally-ranked Stanford before falling in another test without preseason all-conference selection Lily Wahinekapu versus a high-quality Santa Clara squad, UH returned home for the Bank of Hawai’i Classic that featured a field of San Francisco, Idaho and Cal State Fullerton still searching for a victory. 

The Rainbow Wahine found that elusive victory Friday afternoon, using a strong defensive effort in the 3rd quarter to pull away from San Francisco and take down the Dons, 65-51. It wasn’t pretty early as San Francisco and Hawai’i traded runs in a tightly contested opening half of play. The Rainbow Wahine led the Dons, 14-12, after one and held that same two-point advantage going into halftime after USF furiously cut down the eight-point deficit in the final two minutes and 37 seconds of the quarter. 

Hawai’i responded with an impressive effort on the defensive end in the 3rd quarter, holding San Francisco to just two makes from the floor in the frame to take a 10-point advantage into the 4th quarter. The defending Big West champions held the Dons at arms’ length for the remainder of the night, knocking down a total of 12 3-pointers to pick up the first win of the year, 65-51. Brooklyn Rewers led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds for Hawai’i in the win. 

The second night of the Bank of Hawai’i Classic was not as kind to the hosting Rainbow Wahine, who fell to the Idaho Vandals on Sunday, 50-40. UH struggled offensively out of the gates once again, seeing Idaho jump out to a 14-7 lead after one quarter of play and 30-17 through 20 minutes. 

The Rainbow Wahine saw the early-season offensive woes continue, unable to muster a field goal in the final 5:06 of the first half as the deficit increased. Shooting woes weren’t the only issue facing UH as Idaho held advantages on the glass and in turnover margin, though 20% shooting on 25 shots in the 1st half played an influential role in putting the ‘Bows in a deeper pit than they could get out of. 

UH opened the 2nd half of play with a fury, outscoring the Vandals 12-3 in the 3rd quarter despite continuing to struggle keeping Idaho off of the offensive glass to make it a four-point game heading into the final 10 minutes. The Rainbow Wahine continued to keep it close throughout the 4th but could never break through, as the Vandals answered with timely baskets to close out the 50-40 victory over the tournament hosts. 

“Tough one for us tonight, from playing great team basketball on Friday to not-great team basketball tonight,” Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman said following the loss to Idaho. “I think our energy was really flat in the 1st half, we had a really good 3rd quarter, we came out with some defensive intensity. We still didn’t score the ball like we should have, holding a team to as few points as we did, we should’ve scored the ball more, but we didn’t get off the ball, we had sticky hands.” 

Hawai’i falls to 1-3 with the weekend split and won’t be back in action until Friday evening when Air Force comes to town for the Rainbow Wahine Showdown featuring UH, AFA, Idaho State and Washington. 

Imani Perez led UH in scoring with 12 points against Idaho, securing all-tournament team honors for Hawai’i alongside junior forward Brooklyn Rewers.